Cincinnati was the birthplace of professional baseball. The Reds are the oldest team in North American Professional sports, beginning play in 1869. For some Reds fans, it feels like that long since they have been competitive. Great American Ballpark, which opened in 2003, has yet to host a postseason game. The Reds have tried to compete with various free agents, young players, and savvy veterans, but nothing works. The Reds have not won a World Series since a surprising title in 1990, though they did show some improvement in 2009. They have a stable of young pitchers that can help the team compete, and it was reflected in a 78-84 record. They were also in the race for a good portion of the season before fading late.
The Reds have already made a splash in the free agent market by signing Cuban free agent Aroldis Chapman. Chapman recently defected from his native Cuba and signed a six year deal to pitch for the Reds. While he may not play immediately in Cincinnati, he is a key player for the future as he adjusts to the Major League level. Another Cuban, former first round draft pick out of Miami Yonder Alonso, could be another player that makes his Major League debut this season and makes the Reds better. This is a very young team that is being built for the future, but they may be good enough to challenge right now in a weak National League. First they have to get past the Cubs and the Cardinals though.
Young first baseman Joey Votto is a promising player for the Reds that had a breakthrough year in 2009. Votto hit .322 with 25 home runs and 84 RBI to lead the Reds in homers and batting average. Brandon Phillips was another bright spot for a resurgent offense by driving in 98 runs with 20 home runs in his own right. Both players can hit for average and for power, making sure that the smokestacks at Great American Ballpark are constantly shooting fireworks into the air. Phillips is also a capable base stealer with 25, adding an element of speed to the Reds plans this year.
Ultimately, teams cannot do it without pitching though. The Reds bullpen has long been an area of concern, but the starters are beginning to come around and give them consistent innings. Bronson Arroyo is the ace of the staff and will be again in 2010. He won 15 games a year ago, which tied a career high for the 32-year-old right hander. He is a guy that will go out, eat up innings, and give you a chance to win every night. 23-year-old Johnny Cueto is another promising pitcher with 11 wins a year ago, while Homer Bailey is expected to finally deliver as a former #1 prospect in the organization. Francisco Cordero will also be back as one of the best closers in the game. Cordero had 39 saves last year, and can crack 100 mph when he is trying to close a game.